Denton Probate Attorneys
Serving All of North Texas
Death leaves behind painful, stressful, and emotional circumstances, even without the added complexity of endless legal matters that must be tended to. At the Chenault Law Firm we understand this and will help you navigate the legal process during this difficult time. We assist clients throughout Denton, Dallas, Tarrant, and Collin Counties including Flower Mound, Lewisville, Richardson, Carrollton and Plano.
Texas offers several probate options. Below is a general description of the typical process but each probate estate is unique and varies from person to person.
A will helps simplify the legal process. If your loved one created a will, the first step is typically to file an application with the court to admit the document for probate. Most wills, especially those drafted by attorneys, designate an executor, an individual in charge of ensuring all provisions are met and followed as closely as possible. Most wills will also commission the executor serve as an independent administrator and waive the bond. If such designation is not made, a bond must be posted before Letters Testamentary may be issued.
Letters Testamentary are given to the executor by the court after the will has been admitted to probate and authorize him or her to administer the estate.
The process becomes more complicated and elaborate, when no will is left by the deceased. An application to determine heirship may be required along with an application for Letters of Administration.
The court determines who is entitled to inherit the property in question through an heirship proceeding which includes the consideration of spouses, children, grandchildren, siblings, parents, etc. In the heirship proceeding, the Court generally appoints an attorney ad litem which conducts independent investigation into the decedents of the deceased to assist the court in determining the heir.
Once the ad litem proffers a report, an heirship hearing occurs presided by a judge. Two disinterested witnesses, meaning those unrelated to the deceased, are required to testify regarding the heirs.
Satisfied that all heirs have been discovered, the presiding judge will sign a judgment, documenting these heirs along with the percentage each heir is entitled to receive of the estate. The judge will then issue Letters of Administration to the person chosen as the administrator. Letters of Administration serve essentially the same purpose as Letters Testamentary.
Definition of Probate
The term probate is derived from the Latin word meaning “To prove the will.” Probate refers to the process of a court-overseen administration and distribution of a deceased’s estate. A probate aims to ensure that final bills and expenses are resolved, including taxes owed, and any remaining assets are distributed to the beneficiaries named in the will, or if there is no will, in accordance with Texas laws governing intestate succession.
Small Estates May Not Require Probate
If the entire Estate, not including homestead and exempt property, is $50,000 or less, the decedent’s assets may be transferred by affidavit procedure without having to go through the probate process, provided certain qualifications are met. Because preparation of the Small Estate Affidavit poses several pitfalls, since requirements are extraordinarily complex and modifications are always needed to mold the affidavit to the particular facts of each case, an experienced attorney should assist in its preparation.
Planning Ahead to Avoid Probate
The primary disadvantages of probate are cost, time and sacrifice of privacy. Many clients therefore, desire to avoid probate completely. Careful estate planning provides the firmly established base necessary to skirt probate proceedings. A properly funded revocable living trust allows assets held in the name of the trust to pass to the beneficiaries, in accordance with the provisions of the trust, without the requirement of probate administration. Titling assets in joint tenancy with right of survivorship and careful use of beneficiary designations on certain types of assets are other available avenues to avoid the drawn-out probate litigation. The Chenault Law Firm, a local and experienced estate-planning and probate Firm in Denton County, can help explain the advantages and disadvantages of each method.
When Probate is Required, Seek Experienced Legal Representation
If you have recently encountered the death of a loved one, the last thing you want to do is navigate the seemingly complicated probate process. The Chenault Law Firm can help lead you through it from beginning to end, allowing you the much-needed opportunity to be able to grieve. If you are the appointed Trustee or Executor by the Will of your lost loved one, The Chenault Law Firm can also counsel you to guarantee that you successfully fulfill your fiduciary obligations and guide you in managing and transferring the assets of the estate to its intended beneficiaries.
Serving as the personal representative of a decedent’s estate encompasses many fiduciary duties and responsibilities, and should not be taken lightly. Contact our office by phone at 972.591.0099, message us online, or visit us at our office in Denton County for a confidential phone or in office consultation.